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Case Study — Final Closure Water Balance of a Tailings Impoundment Using Direct Vegetation

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  • Kidston Gold Mine in Queensland, Australia has a 310 ha tailings impoundment that has undergone final closure rehabilitation. Kidston Gold Mine evaluated their closure options for this low acid generating tailings impoundment, and due to a lack of cover soils and the cost of importing material, the mine decided to investigate the possibility of direct vegetation onto the tailings impoundment surface. The mine subsequently embarked upon a well planned and detailed research program to determine the feasibility and sustainability of this closure option. The research program included vegetation trials, toxicology studies for metal uptake by vegetation, as well as a comprehensive closure water balance model for the tailings impoundment complex. This paper describes the results of the long-term closure water balance for the tailings impoundment complex for the pre-closure state of the impoundment, as well as predictions towards the impoundment performance once final rehabilitation of the tailings impoundment complex has been achieved. The water balance presented is unique in that it is founded on unsaturated flow principles and accounts in full the impacts of the surface flux boundary conditions. This novel approach enables the prediction of actual infiltration rates into the tailings impoundment surface, which in turn allows for the calculation of how much seepage will exit from the tailings dam toe drains.

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